Culture 500: Introducing the 2020 Culture Champions

by: Donald Sull and Charles Sull
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Cultural Excellence

The Culture 500 measures and compares more than 500 U.S. companies across nine cultural dimensions, by narrowing in on employee data to examine what makes company culture distinctive and effective. The interactive index allows us to see how companies perform across the cultural values that matter most to employees, such as respect, collaboration, and diversity.

So when it comes to cultural excellence, which companies stand apart from the rest? After rigorous analysis, our research team identified 21 companies that are head and shoulders above their industries for using what we call the Big 9 values. These Culture Champions produce vibrant, multifaceted cultures that succeed spectacularly for their employees.

To create the inaugural Culture Champions list, the CultureX research team considered four important qualifiers for cultural performance.

Rises high above peers. The Culture 500 measures company performance across nine cultural values — agility, collaboration, customer orientation, diversity, execution, innovation, integrity, performance, and respect. These values are among the most frequently cited by large companies in their official corporate culture value statements as well as by employees in company reviews, and they are linked to a variety of desirable outcomes like financial performance, innovation, and employee engagement.

To qualify as a Culture Champion, a company’s employees needed to speak more frequently in favorable terms about these nine values than those at other companies within its industry.1 In cases where more than one company passed this bar, the company with the highest score in that industry was denoted a Culture Champion (unless either was disqualified by one of the factors we outline below). While 39 industries are represented in the Culture 500, not every industry had a qualifying company, and in some cases, a Champion can lead multiple industries.

Meets a standard for diversity, integrity, and respect. Some values matter more than others. To become a Culture Champion, companies could not score below -1 standard deviation in sentiment for diversity, integrity, or respect relative to their industry.

Has a culture rated highly by employees. Companies had to be in the top 30th percentile of the culture rating (the one-to-five-star rating employees give their employer’s culture) on Glassdoor, relative to the overall Culture 500 sample.

Experiences no major drop-offs. Companies had to have sustained or increased their culture star rating over time. Companies with significant, recent drops in ratings were excluded. In rare cases where potential Champions were very similar across all other dimensions, the ranking was determined by which company had the better trend over time.

Commonalities Among the Differences

No two Champions are alike — some demonstrate cultural success through bold innovation, others by empowering employees or fostering high-respect environments. The individual profiles in this article highlight the specific strengths that make each company’s culture so exceptional. But despite representing different industries, these companies also share commonalities. Culture Champions are likely to share the following traits:

Strong financial performance. When measured over a five-year period, publicly traded companies on the list saw share prices increase by 234%, on average. Over the same period, the S&P 500 increased by 62% and the Nasdaq increased by 117%. Eleven of the 15 publicly traded Culture Champions outperformed the S&P 500. These companies also saw particularly strong financial performance compared with companies in their industries.

Explore the ultimate culture scorecard.


Culture matters

See how major companies in the world economy rank across the nine dimensions of corporate culture, based on more than 1.4 million Glassdoor reviews.


Explore the Culture 500 »

On average, publicly traded Culture Champions outperformed their industry peer set (that is, publicly traded companies in any of the Culture 500 industries that they belong to) by nearly a full standard deviation, when measuring returns over a five-year period. All but three of the 15 publicly traded Champions yielded higher returns than their industry peer set average, and in two of those three cases, the companies practiced traditional business models (department stores, in Nordstrom’s case, and producing internal combustion engine cars, in Toyota’s) in industries undergoing heavy disruption. When compared with companies with similar business models (for example, Macy’s in Nordstrom’s case, or Ford or GM in Toyota’s case), the Culture Champions again outperformed their peers financially.

Female leadership. Culture Champions are more than twice as likely to be led by a woman than are typical Fortune 500 companies. We found that 24% (5 of 21) of the Culture Champions have either a female CEO (Accenture, CDW, The Clorox Company) or chairwoman (Bain, St. Jude Children’s Hospital). Just 7% of Fortune 500 companies have a woman CEO2 and, as of 2018, only 5% of board chairs are women.3 Of Culture Champions with formal boards of directors, an average of 34% of board members were female; in 2018, 23% of Fortune 500 board members were female.4 The leadership teams listed on Culture Champions’ websites are, on average, 29% female, 6% higher than the number of female C-suite executives in a recent large McKinsey study.5

Psychologically safe environments. For the Culture 500, we rank hundreds of companies and determine the Culture Champions among them that are using the Big 9 values. However, the CultureX research team studies and measures more than 200 cultural topics (we do not report out all of them because that would be information overload). When the average sentiment score for each topic is calculated relative to the entire Culture 500 sample, the single topic that Culture Champions score the highest on is not a Big 9 value at all: It is honest discussions. On average, Culture Champions are incredibly effective at cultivating cultures where employees are free to speak candidly and raise their ideas and concerns without fear of reprisal. They favorably bring up honest discussions a remarkable 1.7 standard deviations more than employees at the average company in the sample.

Learn more about the unique cultures of our 2020 Culture Champions below.

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The 2020 Culture Champions

Accenture

Innovation meets world-class inclusion and diversity at this leading professional services company.

Industries

Business Process Outsourcing, IT Services, Management Consulting

Cultural Strengths

Diversity Execution Innovation Respect

For a multinational company with more than half a million people, Accenture has cultivated a distinctive culture that succeeds across multiple dimensions and achieves levels of innovation often associated with much smaller companies.

In our data set of over 8,600 Accenture professionals from the United States, the consensus about innovation is clear. Accenture offers the “opportunity to work on cutting-edge technology,” noted a typical review. Accenture made the Culture 500 top 10 list for innovation — a feat that, of other comparably sized companies, only Amazon was able to achieve.

Accenture has built its remarkable culture of innovation while cultivating one of the strongest cultures of diversity and inclusion in the Culture 500, scoring in the 97th percentile for this value. As one representative quote illustrates, “diversity and nondiscrimination are important parts of Accenture’s corporate culture and are strictly enforced.”

“Our people and culture are our biggest competitive advantage, and our unwavering commitment to inclusion and diversity enables us to recruit the most talented people in our markets,” said CEO Julie Sweet about Accenture’s 2020 Culture Champion designation. “This creates an environment that unleashes innovation and allows our people to perform at their very best.”

Bain & Company

Respected consulting firm gets pretty much everything right, culturally.

Industry

Management Consulting

Cultural Strengths

Agility Collaboration Diversity Execution Integrity Performance

Employees at Bain overwhelmingly give the company high marks, and reviews speak positively to so many company attributes that it is difficult to highlight a single one as particularly exceptional. A good starting point might be collaboration, where Bain ranks No. 1 across the entire Culture 500 sample. “It has a highly collaborative and supportive culture where you are working with people who genuinely care about you and support your professional development,” wrote one employee, echoing the overwhelming consensus about collaboration in the company.

Bain scores unusually highly on agility (“little emphasis on hierarchy”), diversity and inclusion (“the culture is fun and inclusive to all Bainies”), execution (“emphasis on ownership of work”), integrity (“high integrity and somehow still way more fun than anything going”), and performance (“meritocratic”). The company scores in at least the 92nd percentile of each of these values, a remarkable accomplishment.

“Extraordinary teams are at the core of Bain & Company’s mission,” said Russ Hagey, partner and worldwide chief talent officer at Bain & Company. “They anchor our ability to achieve unparalleled results for our firm and our clients. We seek to assemble the most diverse set of experiences, backgrounds, strengths, and perspectives, whose collective ideas add up to far more than what one person could come up with by themselves. Then we strive to create an environment where every person can fully be their best and thrive.”

BlackRock

The client comes first at this high-integrity, high-respect financial services company.

Industries

Diversified Financial Services, Investment Services

Cultural Strengths

Customer Innovation Integrity Performance Respect

At BlackRock, the client comes first, to a statistically unusual extent within its industries. Employees speak more positively about client orientation by 2 standard deviations more than the average diversified financial services or investment services company. BlackRock is in the top four for customer orientation of any company in the Culture 500, and in the words of employees, the company exhibits a “consistent client-first, fiduciary culture.”

What else sets BlackRock’s culture apart from its peers? It is more than 2 standard deviations more respectful than its diversified financial services peers and also 1.5 standard deviations more innovative. But one cultural value, in particular, jumps off the page when assessing BlackRock: integrity. The company scores a remarkable 3.1 standard deviations above the average diversified financial services company in our sample (including JPMorgan Chase & Co., Goldman Sachs, and 13 other household names). Unusual for these types of reviews, BlackRock employees are likely to cite the “strong culture of high ethics” at BlackRock in their evaluations.

“Delivering for our clients, supporting our colleagues, investing in our communities, and challenging ourselves to innovate is what drives us,” said Manish Mehta, global head of human resources at BlackRock. "Our culture, people, and purpose are the foundation of everything we do. They enable us to help our clients navigate these difficult times and position us for the future.”

Boston Scientific

Patient centricity and diversity help put this medical device maker above the pack.

Industries

Medical Devices, Most Patents

Cultural Strengths

Collaboration Customer Diversity Innovation

According to one Boston Scientific employee, “The answer to every question for a project is making something better for the patient.” This echoes the patient-centric consensus about the company, which ranks in the top 10 for customer centricity across the whole Culture 500 and outpaces the medical devices industry (one of the most customer-centric industries in the sample) by over 1.5 standard deviations when it comes to putting the patient first.

Another differentiator for the company is its commitment to diversity and inclusion, where it scores in the 91st percentile across the entire Culture 500 sample. The company has won multiple awards for diversity and is, as one employee noted, “great at promoting diversity and inclusion at the workplace.” Compared with its industry peers, Boston Scientific has also cultivated an impressive culture of collaboration (1.5 standard deviations above the industry average) and innovation (1.9 standard deviations above the industry average).

“We’re fortunate that in health care, we don’t have to look far for our purpose — our mission is to transform lives. Our devices and therapies help more than 30 million patients each year, and corporate social responsibility is especially important to our employees,” said Mike Mahoney, chairman and CEO of Boston Scientific. “Companies with a stronger focus on issues like diversity, community engagement and sustainability have higher employee engagement, which in turn leads to higher performance. It’s not a question of doing the right thing instead of focusing on the bottom line; it’s about doing the right thing as the best way to achieve sustainable, long-term growth.”

Bristol Myers Squibb

The most customer-centric company in the Culture 500 has many other strengths, too.

Industry

Pharmaceuticals & Biotech

Cultural Strengths

Collaboration Customer Innovation Integrity Respect

“Great open and collaborative work environment.” “First-in-class products and pipeline.” “Quality science.” “Highly professional, highly ethical, most competent company top to bottom.” “Coworkers are great people and respect each other.” Reviews like these are much more common for Bristol Myers Squibb than for a typical pharmaceutical company. In a significant way, employees speak more positively about collaboration (by 1.7 standard deviations), respect (1.5), innovation (1.0), and integrity (0.8) than their industry average.

Most striking about Bristol Myers Squibb’s culture, perhaps, is its patient centricity. In the whole Culture 500, Bristol Myers Squibb ranks No. 1 for customer orientation. “The mission is focused on patients,” wrote one employee. “Patient focused,” “patient driven,” “patient oriented,” and “patient first” are phrases that emerge again and again in reviews for the company on Glassdoor.

“Among our relentless focus on patients is our commitment to creating an inclusive workplace. We firmly believe our employees’ diverse perspectives and backgrounds help fuel our best ideas and innovation, which ultimately benefits patients,” said Ann Powell, executive vice president and chief human resources officer at Bristol Myers Squibb. “We are honored to be recognized by the Culture 500 for our patient-centric culture.”

CDW

IT services provider executes effectively, with high collaboration and respect.

Industries

IT Services, Supply Chain & Logistics

Cultural Strengths

Collaboration Customer Execution Respect

CDW has a culture of trusting employees to get things done, earning it a spot in the 94th percentile for execution in the Culture 500. Employees frequently speak positively about empowerment. “Coworkers are given flexibility and are empowered to question traditional mindset,” wrote one reviewer, and several more discuss the lack of micromanaging. In the eyes of employees, CDW has a “self-managed” culture where the processes are generally “logical and well run,” and there are an “abundance of resources” for employees to rely on to get things done without hand-holding.

Another component of CDW’s successful culture is collaboration, which is rated about 1.5 standard deviations above the averages of both its industries. “There is a culture of family with constant collaboration to solve an issue or manage a project,” wrote one employee. This close-knit culture also extends to the value of respect, where CDW is nearly 2 standard deviations stronger than the industry average for a supply chain and logistics provider.

While CDW is a well-oiled, collaborative, and respectful machine, it does not lose sight of the customer, outpacing both of its industry averages by over a standard deviation with respect to customer orientation. For CDW, significantly more than its peer companies in IT services and supply chain logistics — two industries that sit in the middle of the pack for customer orientation — everything “revolves around the customer.”

Chick-fil-A

High-respect, highly collaborative fast food restaurant puts the customer first.

Industry

Fast Food

Cultural Strengths

Collaboration Customer Execution Integrity Respect

Fast food is not an industry with a reputation for respecting employees. In fact, fast food and casual restaurants are two of the lowest-ranked industries for respect measured in the Culture 500. Chick-fil-A bucks that trend, though, scoring a remarkable 2.7 standard deviations above the industry average for respect. As one front-line worker put it, “CFA tries to make employees feel valued, and they take into account the human side of employment.”

Even by the highly teamwork-oriented standards of its industry, Chick-fil-A stands out for collaboration, scoring 1.9 standard deviations above the fast-food industry average and landing in the top 10 for collaboration across the Culture 500 as a whole. “Helping each other out as team players” is the cultural norm for the company, according to the consensus on Glassdoor.

Chick-fil-A also makes the top 10 list for customer orientation, as employees speak about prioritizing the customer over 2 standard deviations more positively than the average fast-food company. Employee reviews remarked that the company “is so passionate about great customer service” and makes teaching customer service skills to its workers a priority.

“Our founder, Truett Cathy, always said he wasn’t in the chicken business, but the people business, and that holds true today,” said Tim Tassopoulos, president and chief operating officer of Chick-fil-A. “Caring for people — from our guests to restaurant operators and team members to support center staff — is at the heart of our business, and we’re honored to be recognized for it.”

The Clorox Company

High-integrity, high-respect consumer goods company also executes effectively.

Industry

Consumer Goods

Cultural Strengths

Agility Collaboration Execution Integrity Respect

The Clorox Company scores in the Culture 500 top 50 for both integrity and respect. “The company really lives its core values, especially doing the right thing and operating with integrity,” said one employee. “While people are very talented, they walk with humility and respect,” said another.

The company has also cultivated a top 50 culture of execution. Reported one reviewer, “There is a high level of ownership given to each employee, which makes you feel like you are making a high impact in your role.” The Clorox Company also outpaces the consumer goods industry in agility and collaboration scores, exceeding the industry average by over 1 standard deviation in both cases.

“As a values-based company focused on achieving results the right way, we’re proud to be named a Culture Champion. It’s especially meaningful because it tells us that our strategic priorities — notably putting people at the center of everything we do, reimagining how we work, and focusing on inclusion and diversity — resonate with our teams,” said Kirsten Marriner, executive vice president and chief people officer at The Clorox Company. “Importantly, our commitment to do the right thing continues to be at the heart of how we run our business and foster a workplace where people feel valued, respected, and seen.”

Cummins

The No. 1 culture for diversity in our study is also a leader for integrity and respect.

Industries

Electrical Equipment, Industrials

Cultural Strengths

Collaboration Customer Diversity Integrity Respect

Employees at Cummins speak about diversity and inclusion more frequently and in a more positive light than any other company measured in the Culture 500. Employees wrote that “there are amazing opportunities for minorities” in this “very inclusive company” that “really supports diversity at all levels.” At a time when many large American employers are struggling to deliver on these values, employees speak about Cummins’ diverse culture 3.2 standard deviations more positively than the average company in the Culture 500.

“Cummins has been working on diversity and inclusion for many years, and it’s ingrained in our corporate values and culture,” said Cummins Chairman and CEO Tom Linebarger. “But there is still much more that we can do, and we’re taking aggressive steps to get there. We know that a diversity of people, working styles, and ideas is critical to our company’s success.”

In addition to creating the top-ranked culture of diversity in the Culture 500, Cummins has also cultivated one of the highest performing cultures for integrity and respect, scoring in the top 20 for both values. “Good ethics and culture of respect for all,” summarized one employee. Cummins also scores high on collaboration and customer orientation for its industry, surpassing the average electrical equipment manufacturer by about 1.3 standard deviations.

Discount Tire

Independent tire retailer pumps up remarkably collaborative, high-integrity culture.

Industry

Specialty Retail

Cultural Strengths

Collaboration Customer Execution Integrity Respect

If Fortune 500 business leaders want to learn about world-class teamwork, they might want to pay attention the next time they get their tires changed. Employees at Discount Tire, a private tire and wheel retailer, speak more favorably about collaboration in their company than employees at any other company in the Culture 500, bar none. There is a “great teamwork philosophy” at Discount Tire, where, as one former employee described it, “camaraderie between employees felt like family.”

There is also a very strong culture of integrity; employees rate their company one of the top 25 highest-integrity workplaces in the Culture 500, a remarkable 3.5 standard deviations higher than the average specialty retailer. The company’s values are “all based on honesty and integrity.” The company also outpaces the specialty retail industry for customer orientation (by 1.3 standard deviations) and respect (by 1.2 standard deviations).

Hilton

Empowering hotelier scores high for collaboration, respect, and integrity.

Industry

Hotels & Leisure

Cultural Strengths

Collaboration Execution Integrity Respect

Compared with other hotel and leisure companies, Hilton excels at getting the job done. Employees rate its culture of execution 2.1 standard deviations more highly than the industry average. At Hilton, “they take care of their employees by providing great resources for assistance and clear guidelines of what is expected,” an employee noted. In reviews, employees observed “little use of micromanaging” and higher degrees of autonomy and trust.

“It’s a team-oriented culture with a sense of ownership,” said another employee, speaking not just to the company’s culture of accountability but also to its collaboration, which scores 1.7 standard deviations higher than the industry average. In its industry, Hilton is also a leader for respect and integrity, surpassing the industry average by 1.1 and 1.3 standard deviations, respectively.

On Hilton’s inclusion as a 2020 Culture Champion, the company’s chief human resources officer, Matthew Schuyler, said, “When our team members feel included and empowered to bring their whole self to work, that’s when the magic happens. Encouraging these behaviors creates a cultural foundation that makes Hilton a really special place to build a career.”

HP Inc.

This company has one of the best cultures for diversity and inclusion, with high scores for integrity, respect, and collaboration.

Industry

IT Hardware

Cultural Strengths

Collaboration Diversity Execution Integrity Respect

HP Inc. ranks in the top five on the Culture 500 list for diversity and inclusion, meaning its employees rate the culture of diversity more than 2 standard deviations more favorably than the typical company in the full list. As one employee wrote, “It’s nice to work for a company that truly values diversity and not just because it’s an industry trend.”

HP also scores in the top decile for three other Big 9 values: collaboration (92nd percentile), integrity (97th), and respect (94th). According to employees, the company exhibits a “strong sense of team” and “leads with integrity, humility, and empathy.” Moreover, it gets the job done, outpacing its industry by over a standard deviation with regards to execution.

“We are extremely proud of HP’s ranking on the Culture 500 list,” said Tracy Keogh, HP’s chief human resources officer. “It reflects our commitment to preserve and cultivate the HP Way, which is all about diversity, collaboration, integrity, and respect. But what makes this recognition especially meaningful is that it comes from the very folks that have been a crucial part of HP — our employees and alumni.”

HubSpot

Agile tech company excels in execution while creating a culture with many strengths.

Industry

Internet

Cultural Strengths

Agility Collaboration Customer Diversity Execution Integrity Performance Respect

Just how strong is HubSpot’s culture of execution? A human with an IQ of 175, a few points higher than Stephen Hawking’s, is 5 standard deviations higher than average — the same number of standard deviations by which HubSpot employees speak favorably about their employer’s culture of execution compared with other companies in the Culture 500. HubSpot, ranked No. 1 for execution, is a “very autonomous environment with a lot of smart people who are motivated” and where employees are “empowered and enabled to make huge mistakes or earn huge wins” and have “amazing freedom to do [their] work and not be micromanaged.”

HubSpot also ranks in the top 10 of the Culture 500 for agility. The structure of the 3,700-employees-and-growing company “changes every year to best facilitate problems that need to be solved in the near future,” an employee wrote. Another noted, “There is very little top-down anything; each team determines their own destiny.”

Culturally, HubSpot gets just about everything right. It ranks in the top 20 for performance (“if you perform well, you will get promoted”) and respect (“this is probably the only company that treats you like a human first and an employee second”). HubSpot outpaces its internet peers by 1.7 standard deviations on collaboration, 1.6 standard deviations on customer orientation, 1 standard deviation on diversity, and 1.4 standard deviations on integrity. Compared with its peers, HubSpot is a “collaborative open workplace” that puts “customers first” with a “real commitment to diversity and inclusion” while being “refreshingly honorable.”

“Being recognized as a Culture Champion, and the No. 1 company in the execution category, is a strong testament to HubSpot’s commitment to culture since day one. While we don’t always get it right, we’re constantly iterating on how we help people do their best work and deliver on the promises in our culture code,” said Katie Burke, chief people officer at HubSpot. “One thing we’ve learned is that to build a high-performing culture, you need to prioritize diversity and inclusion — people can’t be passionate about your mission or make an outsized impact on it if they don’t feel like they truly belong. And if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that employees, and their families, look to their employers for support, leadership, and inclusivity during good times and bad.”

Mastercard

Technology-driven payments company balances culture of performance with decency, high integrity, and superb diversity and inclusion.

Industry

Consumer Finance

Cultural Strengths

Diversity Integrity Performance Respect

Mastercard’s culture gets many things right, including diversity and inclusion, ranking in the top 25 of the Culture 500 companies. “Mastercard celebrates women, people of color, and the LGBT community incredibly well,” wrote one employee. “Mastercard is not kidding around with its dedication to diversity,” wrote another. A Mastercard employee is 2.3 times more likely to say that diversity and inclusion is going well at their company than a Visa employee, and Mastercard surpasses its industry average by 1.2 standard deviations with regards to this value.

Mastercard also leads its industry by more than 2 standard deviations for both integrity (“good place to work that believes in honesty, integrity, and fairness”) and respect (“each and every employee is treated with same level of respect no matter what your role is”). The company has achieved this while creating a strong performance-based culture, scoring in the 92nd percentile of the Culture 500 overall. “This is a place that definitely rewards performance,” as one reviewer noted. Employees wrote favorably about a topic that’s not usually praised — the company’s “rigorous review process … allows employees to continue working on both their strengths as well as their opportunities for improvement.”

On Mastercard’s recognition as a Culture Champion, Michael Fraccaro, chief people officer, said, “We’ve worked hard to create a culture — or the Mastercard Way — that not only enables and empowers people but celebrates their experiences and their unique points of view. Our people are the engine that drives our opportunity and fuels our success. By ensuring decency underpins everything we do, we show employees and the community that we care.”

Netflix

Agile, empowering media entertainment company lives up to its famous cultural credo.

Industries

Internet, Media & Entertainment, Tech Giants

Cultural Strengths

Agility Execution Performance Respect

The “Netflix Culture” section of the company’s website lists a number of cultural tenets that have become well known in the corporate culture space. Netflix distinguishes itself with its “avoid rules” rule and a core philosophy of “people over process.” These stated values translate into Netflix’s measurably successful culture of agility, ranking No. 4 in the Culture 500 sample for the value, 4.2 standard deviations higher than the average company.

Netflix’s concept of “freedom and responsibility” that “encourages independent decision-making by employees” is a large part of how the Culture 500 measures execution. Netflix scores a remarkable 4.7 standard deviations above the average Culture 500 company on execution, ranking No. 2 for the overall sample. Netflix’s culture “affords a great deal of autonomy” with “the freedom to do what you think is best for the company” and “minimal micromanagement,” according to the consensus of employees.

Netflix also scores in the 94th percentile for respect. Employees reported they “are treated like adults” in line with the company’s “freedom and responsibility” cultural contract. On its culture statement, Netflix promises to “keep only our highly effective people” as it cultivates a high-performance culture. Sure enough, Netflix employees speak more favorably about performance by 1.3 standard deviations than their peer companies in media and entertainment and by 1.1 standard deviations compared to those in the tech giant industry.

Netflix’s other two differentiating tenets focus on transparency and honest communication — employees “share information openly, broadly, and deliberately” and “are extraordinarily candid with each other.” While these are not values measured by the Culture 500, they are among the more than 200 cultural values the CultureX research team studies and analyzes on a regular basis. Netflix outperforms the Culture 500 sample by 2.3 standard deviations on transparency and by 1.2 standard deviations on honest discussions.

Nordstrom

Luxury department store creates unusually customer-oriented, respectful retail culture.

Industry

General Retail

Cultural Strengths

Customer Execution Respect

In its peer group of general retail, Nordstrom is the only company to rank in the top 30 for customer orientation. The company is “committed to exceptional customer service,” according to one employee. “Nordstrom puts customer service first, which really makes this retail company stand out compared with their competitors,” said another. The company’s customer orientation scored 2.4 standard deviations higher than the average retailer.

At Nordstrom, wrote one employee, “the culture is respectful and drama free.” This level of respect, where Nordstrom “treats employees as individuals and not just another worker bee,” is quite unusual for the industry; general retail employees speak less favorably about respect than employees in any other industry except casual restaurants. Nordstrom is 2.3 standard deviations above the norm for this value.

Nordstrom has also cultivated a culture of execution that is 1.8 standard deviations stronger than the industry average. “More autonomy than other retailers,” wrote one employee. “Gives you great freedom, and you have the power to control your own destiny,” wrote another.

Nvidia

Singular, all-star culture excels in practically every dimension.

Industry

Semiconductors

Cultural Strengths

Agility Collaboration Diversity Execution Innovation Integrity Respect

Nvidia’s culture succeeds at a high level, even in comparison to other Culture Champions. The sole entry in the sample to be ranked No. 1 for two cultural values — both agility and innovation — the semiconductor company shines across multiple areas of the Big 9. It is also the only company to achieve top 10 listings for more than three cultural values, with a stunning five appearances on top 10 lists.

Across the values the Culture 500 measures, employees at Nvidia speak more favorably about their culture than at any other company in the sample. They describe the culture as highly agile, with a “fast-paced, ever-changing, and exciting” “flat, decentralized structure.” It is also highly innovative, with “bleeding-edge technology” in “a place where great minds from science and technology fields meet.” When it comes to execution, Nvidia “empowers individuals to do their best work” with “tons of autonomy and ownership.”

The semiconductor company is in the 100th percentile (ranked No. 1) for agility, the 85th percentile for collaboration, the 93rd percentile for diversity, the 99th percentile for execution, the 100th percentile for innovation, the 99th percentile for integrity, and the 98th percentile for respect.

With a culture of extremely high integrity and respect, the “very intellectually honest company” “truly respects their employees and treats them across the board amazingly,” according to employees. At Nvidia, “people collaborate and share success” with “a strong diversity focus,” earning a culture rating for collaboration that’s 1.5 standard deviations higher than the industry average. Nvidia has a culture that does everything remarkably well simultaneously, to a greater extent than any other culture measured in the Culture 500.

“It’s gratifying to be recognized by Culture 500, particularly given the breadth and depth of its research,” said Shelly Cerio, senior vice president of human resources at Nvidia. “The strength and preservation of Nvidia’s unique culture is of central importance to our success as we continue to advance accelerated computing and AI across virtually every industry around the world.”

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

High-integrity, patient-focused research hospital also has a culture of collaborative respect.

Industry

Research Hospitals

Cultural Strengths

Agility Collaboration Customer Execution Integrity Respect

St. Jude ranks in the Culture 500 top 10 for two different cultural values: collaboration and respect. In an industry with the second-highest collaboration sentiment measured in the Culture 500, St. Jude ranks No. 1 for collaboration, exceeding the industry average by nearly 2 standard deviations. There is a “strong sense of community” at the hospital, where “supervisors and colleagues are all nice and supportive,” employees noted. Its culture of respect is, remarkably, over 3 standard deviations stronger than the average company in the Culture 500. Significantly more than at most large employers, at St. Jude “the higher-ups treat the employees with respect and always show their appreciation.”

St. Jude is also highly patient-centric, scoring in the top 20 of customer centricity for the Culture 500. “The people are caring and treat their patients with love and respect, and the doctors and nurses never give up,” wrote one employee. “An organization built upon doing meaningful work with integrity,” according to another employee, the hospital also scores in the top 40 for its ethics. In addition, the research hospital is 2.3 standard deviations more agile and 1.2 standard deviations stronger in execution than most research hospitals, according to employee reviews.

Toyota Motor North America

Automotive manufacturer drives the Toyota Way with respect and collaboration.

Industries

Industrials, Mobility

Cultural Strengths

Collaboration Customer Integrity Respect

“Respect for people” is a foundational principle of the Toyota Way, and that is reflected in Toyota Motor North America’s ranking ninth for respect in the Culture 500. “Respect for people is an obvious pillar of the company,” wrote one employee. “Toyota prioritizes its employees, treating everyone with respect,” said another.

Teamwork is another component of the Toyota Way. In collaboration, Toyota scores 1.2 standard deviations higher than the rest of the mobility industry. There is a “collaborative, team-oriented work culture” at Toyota Motor North America compared with other companies in the industry.

The automotive manufacturer also exceeds the mobility industry average in both its culture of customer orientation and of integrity, each 1.6 standard deviations higher than the average. The company is “focused on offering excellent customer service,” and “the people are generally excellent, motivated, and honest,” wrote employees.

“Cultivating a culture that reflects, empowers, and respects our team members and customers is rooted in the foundation of the Toyota Way,” said Craig Grucza, group vice president and chief human resources officer at Toyota Motor North America. “Our guiding principles — continuous improvement and respect for people — clarify our approach to every aspect of our business in a deliberate and inclusive way, and we’re proud to see this reflected in the Culture 500 results.”

Trader Joe’s

Highly collaborative grocery chain empowers employees and treats them with respect.

Industry

Grocery Stores

Cultural Strengths

Agility Collaboration Execution Performance Respect

What is it like to work at Trader Joe’s? “There is a huge focus on teamwork,” wrote one employee. “The camaraderie among the crew is great,” echoed another. “Everyone helps each other out.” Trader Joe’s employees write so positively about collaboration at the company that it ranks in the top 20 of all companies in the Culture 500.

Trader Joe’s also distinguishes itself among grocery stores through its strong culture of respect, scoring over 2 standard deviations higher than the industry average. “The management emphasizes a positive attitude, and they treat the employees on a human level,” creating “a friendly environment of mutual respect,” according to employees.

At Trader Joe’s, one employee wrote, “they empower you to pick up an order and take charge of a portion of the store if that is what you would like to do.” Another wrote, “There is a high degree of autonomy, and for the most part, full trust is put in you as an employee.” The company scores over 2 standard deviations higher in execution than its industry average.

Agility and performance are not typically associated with the grocery store industry, in which employees speak about these values so infrequently that their companies are excluded from most Culture 500 rankings. Trader Joe’s employees, in contrast, speak about “little to no bureaucracy” and “raises if you perform well” to such an extent that the company surpasses its industry average by over 2.1 standard deviations with regards to both agility and performance.

Ultimate Software (now UKG)

A high-execution, high-respect standout, the company now known as UKG, earns high marks on seven key values.

Industry

Enterprise Software

Cultural Strengths

Agility Collaboration Customer Diversity Execution Integrity Respect

The company formerly known as Ultimate Software boasts one of the most impressive cultures in the Culture 500, scoring in the 97th percentile for agility, the 91st percentile for collaboration, the 93rd percentile for customer orientation, the 98th percentile for diversity, the 99th percentile for execution, the 93rd percentile for integrity, and the 100th percentile (ranked No. 1) for respect. Only one other company we evaluated has as many cultural values in the top decile as Ultimate Software, which has created a culture that seems to do everything exceptionally well.

More than any other company in the Culture 500, Ultimate Software has employees reporting that “the culture is based on respect.” Reviewers noted that “everyone is welcome, women are empowered, minorities are empowered” in an environment with “tremendous diversity.” Full of “people who actually care about our customers,” the company exemplifies “honesty and integrity in how they treat their employees and customers.” “Leaders are given the autonomy to make decisions without the corporate red tape that exists elsewhere,” and “everyone is willing to help each other” in a “collaborative environment.”

Ultimate Software recently merged with Kronos to become UKG (Ultimate Kronos Group). Like Ultimate Software, Kronos has a culture of very high agility, execution, and respect, scoring in the 94th, 95th, and 93rd percentiles, respectively. If the merger can successfully maintain and leverage the best of both companies’ cultures, including Kronos’ 92nd percentile culture of performance, UKG looks set to establish itself as a Culture Champion in its own right.

“Since day one we’ve called this a ‘merger like no other,’ and seeing the remarkable rankings for both Ultimate and Kronos on the Culture 500 gives further credence that we are embarking on a uniquely special journey,” said UKG CEO Aron Ain. “Rebranding together as UKG was a defining culture moment for fiercely proud employees from both sides as we rally around becoming one company — with people as our purpose — building from the best of both companies to grow our future.”

References

1. Threshold for qualification was 5.5 standard deviations for Big 9 sentiment Z-score versus industry, summed.

2. E. Hinchliffe, “The Number of Female CEOs in the Fortune 500 Hits an All-Time Record,” Fortune, May 18, 2020, https://fortune.com.

3. “Missing Pieces Report: The 2018 Board Diversity Census of Women and Minorities on Fortune 500 Boards,” Alliance for Board Diversity and Deloitte, 2019, www2.deloitte.com.

4. “Missing Pieces Report.”

5. S. Coury, J. Huang, A. Kumar, et al., “Women in the Workplace 2020,” McKinsey, Sept. 20, 2020, www.mckinsey.com.

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